Fridge Buying Guide

Refrigerators play a central role in every kitchen, allowing you to keep food and beverages fresh and ready for use throughout the week.

Finding a model that is right for you is simply a matter of evaluating what you need in terms of space, function and style.

Choosing the Right Refrigerator

With a wide variety of options to choose from, including top-mount, bottom-mount, side-by-side, compact and built-in refrigerators, you'll have no trouble finding one that combines the right capacity, features and look you want. Replacing an old refrigerator with an energy-efficient model may also help you reduce your energy consumption and lower monthly utility bills.

  • Determine how wide, tall and deep your new unit can be, and remember that you'll need to leave enough space for the doors to swing freely.
  • Don't forget to take into account getting the unit into your home.
Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

The freezer is located underneath the refrigerator section.

  • Makes food in refrigerator easier to reach without bending over
  • Items in freezer are easy to access
  • Freezer door may pull out or swing open
  • Refrigerator may feature a single door or two French doors
  • Units with French doors require more room
Mini Refrigerators

Mini Refrigerators

Small units that can fit into tight spaces or underneath counters.

  • Ideal for dorm rooms, bedrooms, home offices and home bars
  • Provide less capacity than standard units
  • Smaller units can be placed on countertops
Side-By-Side Refrigerators

Side-By-Side Refrigerators

The freezer and refrigerator are placed directly next to each other.

  • Puts both frozen and refrigerated food within easy reach
  • Side-by-side units are designed to accommodate larger plates and platters
French Door Configuration

French Door Configuration

The freezer is on the bottom and the fresh food section can be accessed via twin doors. Some models come equipped with an ice and water dispenser.

Counter-Depth Refrigerators

Counter-Depth Refrigerators

Freestanding Counter-depth Refrigerators

Freestanding counter-depth refrigerators have finished sides and do not need to be secured or fastened.

  • Has less depth than most freestanding units but generally wider to compensate for space
  • Less expensive than a built-in but offers a similar sleek contour design

Built-in Counter-depth Refrigerators

Built-in counter-depth refrigerators have unfinished sides and an evaporator mounted at the top. Due to the top-heavy nature of this design, built-in refrigerators need to be secured to the surrounding cabinetry and wall. They are constructed to blend in with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry rather than being installed as a separate unit.

  • Seamlessly integrates with kitchen décor
  • Custom-made panels provide stylish options
  • Typically 84" in height (incl. the evaporator), with width ranging from 36"–48"


Refrigerators are available in a wide range of capacities, from compact units with around 3 cu. ft. of space to large, family-sized units that feature upwards of 30 cu. ft. In a two-person household, you will need at least 10 cu. ft. of space, excluding freezer storage. In larger households, a good rule of thumb is to add 1.5 cu. ft. of refrigeration space for each additional person. If you dine out frequently, you may be able to purchase a smaller unit. Overall, 21 cu. ft. of refrigeration/freezer space should suffice for an average-sized family.

  • Empty refrigerators operate with less efficiency than fully stocked units
  • If you frequently entertain guests, look for a unit with greater storage capacity
  • Consider adding a second refrigerator in your garage or basement if you need a great deal of extra space


The primary means of storing food in your refrigerator are bins, shelves, drawers and baskets. If you like to keep large amounts of milk or juice on hand, look for door bins capable of holding gallon-sized containers.

Many refrigerators have wire shelves, which allow spills to fall through and splatter items below. For easy cleanup and spill control, look for units with spill-proof glass shelves. Adjustable shelving allows you to move them up and down to create space for large dishes while wine racks, snack trays and lift-out baskets in the freezer provide other organizational options.

If you tend to purchase a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, look for produce drawers with humidity controls. Different fruits and vegetables require different amounts of humidity to remain crisp, and these drawers offer the ability to set levels depending on what you're storing.

  • Bins with adjustable heights can accommodate a wider range of food and beverage containers
  • Sliding shelves make it easier to reach items placed toward the back of the refrigerator
  • Deli trays allow you to store large platters of meats, cheeses and hors d'oeuvres
  • Built-in beverage holders keep canned or bottled beverages neat, orderly and easily accessible


Energy Star

Compared to older units, refrigerators manufactured over the past few years provide a tremendous improvement in energy efficiency. Units with the ENERGY STAR rating offer even more efficiency, being required by definition to use at least 20% less energy than current federal standards require (compact units must be 20% more efficient). In addition to purchasing an ENERGY STAR-qualified unit, there are other ways to improve efficiency. Avoid placing your refrigerator next to a heat source, such as a stove or dishwasher, and be sure to defrost it as soon as necessary if you purchase a manual-defrost model. Do not leave the door open for long periods of time, and make sure to leave space around the unit to allow air to reach the condenser coils, preventing heat buildup.

  • Energy-efficient models help reduce utility bills and are more environmentally friendly than standard refrigerators
  • Electronic controls and digital displays make it easy to set precise temperatures
  • Advanced temperature regulation systems keep refrigerators efficiently functioning at optimal temperatures


Door or Temperature Alarms Accidentally leaving the door of the refrigerator open not only wastes energy, it can also spoil food. Units with door or temperature alarms alert you when the door has been left open for more than a few minutes.
Child Lock Units with a child lock will help prevent little chefs from accidentally leaving the door open or helping themselves to treats without permission.
Quiet Operation Refrigerators with this feature reduce operational noise and help keep your kitchen atmosphere quiet.
Icemaker/Water Dispenser Fighting with plastic ice cube trays can be a hassle, and there are never enough cubes when you have company. Built-in automatic icemakers ensure that there's always plenty of ice available, and water dispensers provide cold water at the touch of a button. Look for icemakers and dispensers with built-in filtration systems to provide clean, pure water.
Fast-Cooling Compartment If you find yourself needing to get food items or beverages to a cool temperature quickly, look for a refrigerator that features a special compartment that's colder than the rest of the unit. This space cools things down fast without freezing them.

Style and Finish

While storage capacity, efficiency and features are probably the most important aspects to consider, dont overlook style. Your refrigerator will likely last for a number of years, so its important to select a model that will fit in with your changing tastes and continue to look great over time. Stainless-steel finishes provide one way to keep your refrigerator looking great for years, though they may cost a little bit extra initially. Built-in units let you customize your kitchen's appearance while contoured doors and handles offer a sleek, sophisticated element.

  • Common colours to choose from include stainless steel, bisque, black and white
  • Trim kits allow you to give freestanding units the appearance of a built-in refrigerator
  • Some materials used to create refrigerators are not magnetic, so bear that in mind if you often keep menus, to-do lists and other important items on the fridge

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